Summary: Chapter 37: Gambling for Redemption
After her parents' visit, Tara lapses into depression. Desperate to reconcile with her family, she books a plane ticket to Buck's Peak. By accident, Tara sees an email from her mother to Erin in which her mother writes that Shawn has been saved, and Tara is under the influence of the devil. Faye also writes about having delivered Emily's second baby, and how she thanks God for helping her with the dangerous delivery. Tara is furious that her mother delivered the baby at home while knowing how dangerous it was going to be. She closes the email and leaves the house.
Tara is planning to fly back to Boston when she gets a call from Tyler. Their mother has reached out to him. Tyler wonders why Tara didn't confide in him sooner. Tara assumes that he would not believe her, but Tyler takes her side immediately. He has had his own experiences with Shawn's violence, and has no reason to mistrust Tara.
After completing her fellowship, Tara travels to the Middle East with Drew. She is in awe of the experiences she has had since leaving home, but also mourns for her relationship with her family. She decides to sever ties with her family for one year in order to heal.
Summary: Chapter 38: Strangers and Pilgrims
Tara's emotional distress leaves her severely behind in her schoolwork, and she fears she won't be able to complete her PhD. She is still in contact with Tyler, who tries to persuade their parents to be more sympathetic to Tara, but he is not successful. Eventually, Shawn threatens to exile Tyler from the family if he keeps persisting. Tara fears that she is going to lose Tyler as well, convinced that he will choose the “stability” of the family over his relationship with her. Astonished, she receives a letter from Tyler declaring that he supports Tara, and views the family as abusive.
Tara starts attending counseling. Eventually, Tara focuses on her academic work again and returns to her research. She submits her dissertation on her 27th birthday and defends her thesis a few months later.
Summary: Chapter 39: Watching the Buffalo
The spring after completing her PhD, Tara returns to Idaho. She visits her grandparents and asks her mother to come and meet her in town. Tara's mother refuses, saying she will not go against the will of her husband, and she will only see Tara if she comes to the house.
When Tara's grandmother dies, she wants to go to Idaho to attend the funeral, but doesn't know where she will stay. She reaches out to her mother's sister Angie and stays with her. At the funeral, Tara watches her siblings gather. Tara, Tyler, and Richard now all have doctorates, and are living independent lives, but her other four siblings and their spouses work for her parents. They are also homeschooling their children.
Summary: Chapter 40: Educated
Tara concludes her memoir with an update on her situation. At the time she finishes writing, she has not seen her parents in years. She keeps in contact with Tyler, Richard, and Tony. She has achieved some measure of peace with her relationship with her family, but does not know if she will ever be in contact with her father again. This journey to independence has cost her greatly, but it has also changed her forever.
Analysis: Chapters 37–40
After suffering so many betrayals, Tara finally receives steadfast loyalty from Tyler. Tyler has always been a strong supporter of Tara. He has also known since Tara was young that Shawn was violent toward her, since this is part of the reason Tyler first encouraged Tara to move away and go to school. Significantly, Tyler is more independent and objective than the other family members who betrayed Tara's trust when she confided in them. Like Tara, Tyler is educated, employed, and has built a new family for himself. For all of these reasons, he can stand up to his family without living in fear of losing everything. Tyler's willingness to openly state his support for Tara makes her feel less alone and abandoned, which helps her to heal. Nonetheless, Tyler does not sever contact with his family, even after he knows what Tara has gone through.
Tara channels her desire for family, love, and support into building a new relationship with her extended family. In the end, even with the new life she has built for herself, Tara still needs a connection to her past and her roots. She has never been close with her mother's family because she was raised to believe they were critical of her father. Now, after everything she has been through, Tara is also critical of her family, and can see why her grandmother and aunts felt the way they did. By building a new relationship with them, Tara shows her resilience and ability to compromise. She may never be able to have a relationship with her immediate family, but she has the freedom and resourcefulness to make choices and seek out love and support wherever she can find it.
When she began her journey toward going to college, Tara could not have imagined how her life would unfold, or the magnitude of the choices she would make. Looking back and connecting the events of her life into a story, she can see how all her actions had interconnected consequences. In some ways, it might have been easier to live in ignorance and blind trust, because she would not have had to think for herself or take responsibility for her choices. Once she became educated, she also became morally responsible for living according to her values, and being the kind of woman she can respect. Her education may have given her more questions than answers, but it has also given her the possibility to choose.